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The Philly/Pop Index

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The Philly/Pop Index (OP, Olympia, Wash., 1981)
by Reesa Laskey

Since the early 1950s' stirrings of rock'n'roll, Philadelphia, the Cradle of Independence, has generated a wealth of musical innovators. Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Dion & the Belmonts, and Cameo-Parkway artists like Dee Dee Sharp and Little Eva all broke out of Philly. Dick Clark started his "Bandstand" show here.

Disco grew up in Philadelphia under the guidance of Gamble & Huff.

And ever since Chubby Checker introduced the twist and the fly, new dances have developed in Philadelphia, are named in New York, and some years later become the hottest thing on the West Coast.

Today, Philadelphia artists in the pop/new wave field are making strong contributions in both independent and major label recording.

Bands now signed to major labels are The A's (currently at work on their second album for Arista); Quincy, a polished group of South Jersey heartthrobs on Columbia; Joey Wilson, ex-leader of Joey & The Pets, on Bearsville; The Reds on A&M; and most recently, George Wallace to Epic.

Following is an alphabetized list of independent artists who have released recordings within the last year or so:

THE BENDERS—45 entitled "City Surfer" on Third Story Records, 3434 Sansom St., Phila., PA 19104.

THE BOLIVIANS—Although they never reached their potential as a performing group, the Bolivians released four of their good pop tunes on an EP called "Spy in the House of Love"/"I'm a Pretender," on Red Records. Since Red moves around a lot, I recommend writing for info to Third St. Jazz, 10 N. Third St., Phila., PA 19106.

This is one of the best stocked and most helpful stores around for independent, local, and imported records.

Bunnydrums—The sound of helicopters, and you can dance to it, too! The 45, "Little Room" b.w. "Win" is available from META META, P.O. Box 8333, Phila., PA 19101.

THE CATS—Two years ago, WMMR sponsored a contest, the winners of which appeared on an album called "Breakout." Top honors went to the Cats, who went on to release an album on Capitol.

The Breakout album, which also features groups such as Fun City and The Shakes, is available from WMMR, Rittenhouse Square, Phila., PA 19103.

THE CHEATERS—Now sporting not one, but two synthesizer players, this surrealistic prog-rock group offers a high-quality, five-song cassette. Cheaters, 1017 Edann Rd., Orland, PA 19075.

DERISLANDZ—A Jersey shore band, their nicely packaged single includes the original "Yen Momma" and a good cover of The Kinks' "I'm on an Island." Sabotage Records, RD 1, Box 188A, Linwood, NJ 08221.

GO GO RECORDS—most prolific independent pop/esoteric label in town.

Singles are available by Crash Course in Science, JJ180, Helen Wheels, and others (see D issue of OP).

THE GUISE—7" EP "Disguise/Delimit" is clean pop rock with intriguing vocals and guitar work by Chuck Varesko of WIOQ. (2003 update: e-mail Chuck for info on the EP. Copies still exist!)

KENN KWEDER—Philly’s first known punk, Kenn cranked out minimalist sounds with uninhibited performances before it became fashionable. His ear catching new pop sound is available on the Lipstick Records single "That's a Job (for Mommy & Daddy)"/ Back on You."' Write to: Third St. Jazz.

ALAN MANN—A strong performing and recording artist, veteran on the Philly scene. The Alan Mann Band and its various manifestations (The Hard-Ons, The Look, Alan & Jerry, Bobby Philadelphia, etc.) regularly inhabit the stage at Dobbs.

Alan Mann has an EP ("No Deal-No Sleep") and a 45 "You Can't Talk to Her"/"City Lights") on Contender Records, Box 776, Phila., PA 19105.


THE NUMBERS—Originating from Wilmington, Delaware, these boys play solid rock in the Who tradition. "Trigger Fingers" b.w. "Stand Up and Shout," a 45, is available from Strait Jacket Records, 234 Potomac Rd., Wilmington, DE 19803.

THE OUTSETS—Their 45 "I'm Searchin' for You"/ "Fever" is on the Contender label (see Alan Mann).

RASHIDI-Reggae single called "Atlanta"; proceeds to Atlanta children fund. Third Story Records

REESA & THE ROOTERS—The Rooters' first single is low-budget pop at its best: wild, dirty, and fun, much like their live shows. "Ultraman in Surf Villa" b.w. "TMI" is available from Music for Moderns.

DAVID SMITH FOUR—Soon to be back on the scene with a new, young band, David released a good pop-rock single "Getting the Picture" b.w. "Set You Straight" on S/M Records, P.O. Box 4624, Phila, PA 19127.

BEN VAUGHN (LEISURE-MATICS)—Although no longer a performing member of this kinky South Jersey group, Ben has recorded a full-length, good-quality cassette, backed by the -Matics. Humorous, rockabilly-pop entitled "The Many Moods of Ben Vaughan." Write to Ben at 515 Gaskill Ave., Mt. Ephraim, NJ 08059.

Some of Philly’s best-known pop bands aren't currently available on vinyl.

The Hooters ska-rock-reggae is often heard on the radio on tape.

John Cadillac, whose rockabilly dance rhythms were released on a blues single last year, is working on a new recording.

Other popular groups are The Schoolboys, who play tight, suburban pop;
Dobbs regulars such as Robert Hazzard and The Heroes, The New-Rotics (featuring talented singing sisters Jane and Germaine), Pleasure Dotz, and Fun City;
Ex-Hot Club regulars like Science Fiction and the Warm Jets;
and Omni regulars including Ben-Wah Torpedoes, Metrix, Earthling, and the electronic pop of Transfactor.


Since Johnny's Dance Band stopped performing when singer Nan Mancini had a baby, these long-time Philly favorites, who released three albums on Windsong, splintered into three groups: The Pedestrians, The Bobby Buttons Band, and The Chet Bolins Experience.

And from South Jersey come some of the most unique bands: the young, clean Front Street Runners, the sadistically humorous Leisure-Matics, and The Locals, who moved to New York.

Following are some of the best Philadelphia clubs to see pop/new wave acts:

BIJOU CAFE—Booked by Electric Factory, 18th & Lombard Sts., Phila., PA 19146. Medium-sized cabaret, nice ambience, variety of big-name and some local pop acts.

DOBBS—304 South St., Phila., PA 19147. Small, but nice cabaret-restaurant with a variety of mostly local, quality original bands. The Dobbs Live Album, a two-record set, is desirable because. of several excellent cuts by George Thorogood and swing band Blue Sparks from Hell. Also features regular Dobbs rockers like Fun City, The Hard-Ons, and Mikey Wild.

ETAGE—For avant-garde/electronic music, Etage at 253 N. Third St., Phila., PA 19106, is the established leader. Etage regularly features all types of esoteric entertainment, as well as musical acts like the intriguing Ghost Writers (two synthesizer players with a 12" EP. Zero Co., 5623 Whitby Ave., Phila, PA 19143), Stu Horn, King of Siam, and The Stickmen.

GRENDEL'S LAIR—500 South St., Phila., PA 19147. Small-to-medium sized cabaret, variety of local pop, reggae, and jazz groups, plus occasional top-name jazz acts.

OMNI'S—907 Walnut St., Phila., PA 19107. A small- to medium-sized, well laid out cabaret-restaurant. With plenty of room for dancing, Omni's has replaced the Hot Club as the best spot to see upcoming wave/avante-garde acts, as well as local bands.

RIPLEY'S MUSIC HALL—608 South St., Phila., PA 19147. Medium-sized disco reopened as a cabaret featuring national and local pop and variety acts.

STARLITE BALLROOM—Lehigh and Kensington Aves., Phila., PA 19125. Will the Starlite ever reopen? Former Hot Club owner David Carroll has a beautiful medium-sized concert/dance hall here. The phone hasn't been disconnected yet, so maybe there's still hope.

South Jersey Clubs:

EMERALD CITY—Rt. 70, Cherry Hill, N) 08002. Large, well-decorated and lighted concert/disco hall. Top name acts (mostly new wave) in the main room; plus local pop bands in the smaller, but equally nice Rainbow Room.

BOJANGLES—201 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd., Cherry Hill, N1 08034. Variety of local pop acts, country-rock on weekends.

GALAXY—Rt. 30, Somerdale, N) 08083. Local new wave/pop bands on Monday and Tuesday nights.

HOLLYWOOD-Black Horse Pike, Mt. Ephraim, NJ 08059.

IVORY—9217 Atlantic Ave., Margate, NJ 08042. Nice, medium-sized disco converted to new wave two to four nights a week.


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